INDIANAPOLIS – For Johnny Manziel, a quarter of an inch will probably make a difference in how he's perceived.
Manziel measured 5 feet, 11 and 3/4 inches tall on Friday at the NFL scouting combine. Another quarter of an inch and he'd have hit a round number that might make skittish teams more comfortable.
The measurement of the possible first pick of the draft was the big story Friday morning at the combine, and Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians wasn't shy about mentioning that it might be an issue. That's why Manziel is one of the most interesting and debated prospects in recent memory.
"There’s a bunch of 6-5 successful guys who are athletic," Arians said. "The 5-11 guys, it has to throw a question mark out there."
Arians has a bit of a devil-may-care attitude and has almost no chance at Manziel drafting near the bottom of the first round, so he can be honest. Surely, other teams near the top of the first round will wonder if it's the best move to take "a 5-11 quarterback." Darn that quarter inch.
Taking a short quarterback worked for Seattle with Russell Wilson, who measured 5-10 5/8 a couple years ago at the combine. The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl with Wilson earlier this month. That's the comparison Manziel probably hopes teams take note of.
"It’s interesting now, here we are in another draft with some notable players, and I think it was Johnny who said something like, ‘He opened the door for us,’ for him," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, referring to Wilson. "And it’s true. Prior to the last couple years, the general thinking was that a guy of Russell’s stature couldn’t play. And that’s wrong. It’s wrong."
Wilson can't see over the line, but he's adept at finding receivers, something Manziel did just fine in the SEC the past two seasons.
"The thing you would say is his ability to find passing lanes," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. "That's the first thing that would stand out about Russell and Johnny."
Arians obviously has reservations about Manziel's size, although he isn't entirely sour on him either. Arians was on the Steelers' offensive staff from 2004-11 with Ben Roethlisberger and he sees some similarities between him and Manziel, although obviously there is the size difference.
"He's 5-11, Ben Roethlisberger is 6-6 but he lived that way early in his career: One, two, I'm going to create something," Arians said. "He did not make mistakes. As long as he's doing that and not making mistakes, you can work with it."
He said that Manziel is a natural playing quarterback and you don't want to take away his instincts. He said he thought quarterbacks like Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are dangerous when they drop back to pass and improvise, but there's a danger in relying too much on a quarterback's legs.
"When you design runs for them, you're putting them in harm's way," Arians said. "Because the guys chasing them are a lot bigger and faster than they were chasing them in college. But to take their natural instinct away from them, the drop back passing and scrambling, you don't want to do that."
Carroll, whose quarterback has rushed for 1,028 yards in his two seasons, agreed that you can't ask a quarterback like Manziel to regularly run the ball.
"We’ve also seen that you can’t last long as a [running] quarterback, you just can’t do it," Carroll said. "The pounding is too great. But that’s the thing about the mobile quarterbacks: They don’t have to be runners to be effective."
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